(By Fire Chief Matt Love) Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992, but this year it seems particularly important. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life.
What does stress mean to you?
We all experience stress – yet we may experience it in very different ways. Because of this, there is no single definition for stress, but the most common explanation is a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.
Stress is a reaction to a situation where a person feels anxious or threatened. Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the proper care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.
Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
- Disbelief, shock and numbness
- Feeling sad, frustrated and helpless
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Headaches, back pains and stomach problems
- Smoking or the use of alcohol or drugs
Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression – even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.
When you are placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into your bloodstream leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time can be dangerous and make you susceptible to the issues mentioned previously.
Learn to overcome issues you cannot change.
Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we have the power to change.
– Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go.
– Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change.
– Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.
– Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.
Here are some basic ideas to help you cope with stress:
– Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
– Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a family member, friend, doctor, pastor or counselor.
– Avoid drugs and alcohol. These can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
– Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue.
Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about your stress.
This goes both ways, as you need to know how to discuss your problems with others as well as talk to anyone that comes to you with their issues.
I wish for you great moments of happiness, health, and low stress as we continue to take care of each other.
Chief Love has been the Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief since 2016. In 2019 he was selected by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Lee County Florida as Fire Chief of the Year, and in 2020 he was named District Manager of the year for the state of Florida by the FASD. He can be reached at our fire department headquarters at 239- 590-4200